The legacy of Lindsay Anderson’s if….

Celebrating one of the most powerful and daringly inventive British films ever made, 50 years on

There is always much for film lovers to celebrate at the annual Southend Film Festival (25-28 May 2018), but this year’s promises to be very special indeed. Marking its own 10th edition, the festival will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of Lindsay Anderson’s seminal, Cannes Palm D’Or-winning if….

Famous for its depiction of a violent insurrection at a boys’ public school, if…. echoed the political and social unrest in France, embodied by the student riots in Paris and revolutionary events in other countries, such as China, Cuba and Vietnam.

Such was its impact, that the film was X-rated on its release, aided all the more so by Malcolm McDowell’s debut performance as the film’s lead character, Mick. In fact, it was after seeing if…. that Stanley Kubrick cast McDowell as Alex in his 1971 film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.

Unsure how to approach the part, McDowell apparently contacted Lindsay Anderson for advice, and recalled that the director told him: ‘Malcolm, this is how you play the part: there is a scene of you, a close-up in ‘if….’, where you open the doors to the gymnasium, to be beaten. You get a close-up.’ I said ‘that’s right.’ He said ‘do you remember…’ I said ‘yes. I smiled.’ He said ‘that’s right. You gave them that smile. That sort of ironic smile,’ he said ‘and that’s how you play Alex.’

For the festival’s opening gala night, there will be an official 50th anniversary screening of if…. with cast members David Wood, Brian Pettifer, and Richard Everett, plus the production team, joining festival-goers for a unique evening. The film also launched the career of Robin Askwith, who became a household name in the 1970’s with his phenomenally successful – and saucy – Confessions films, and who will also attend the Gala Night.

Indeed, there is an air of nostalgia running throughout this year’s festival with some bona fide British classics enjoying an all-too rare screening, including A Taste of Honey, Thunderball and ground-breaking rockumentary, Slade in Flame.

Music fans will also love One Man’s Madness, which closes the festival on Monday 28th May. As the title suggests, this film follows the journey of Lee Jay Thompson, from small-time North London villain to multi-platinum-selling chart-topper with one of Britain’s biggest and best-loved bands of all time, Madness.

Other highlights of the four days of the 2018 Southend Film Festival include opportunities to see and hear talks by directors, writers and actors.

Festival Director Paul Cotgrove says: “I’m very proud that, from humble beginnings in 2009, the Southend-on-Sea Film Festival has become one of Essex’s biggest, independent events on the cultural calendar. It is also very special for me and my team to have linked up with the Lindsay Anderson Foundation for what is shaping up to be the year’s largest gathering of the cast and crew from ‘if….’ I am also delighted that the festival will screen a programme that includes World Cinema, classics, new British features and documentaries, with plenty of opportunities to meet the people who made them.”

The black-tie gala opens the festival on 24 May 2018, at the Odeon Cinema. Festival patrons Vicki Michelle (of ‘Allo ‘Allo! fame) and Hollywood actor, Ray Winstone (subject to work commitments), will join fellow VIPS and movie-goers for a special screening of if…. followed by a presentation and interview panel with members of the cast and crew.

For full listings, details about venues and where to buy tickets, go to www.southendfilmfestival.com

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